At this point in my life I am rarely surprised or shocked. But I must admit I’ve been quite astonished over the last six years by the number of professional women who “ask” their husbands if they may hire a career development specialist—or executive coach—to help them transition to another job or upgrade their skill set. Typically, these women are senior or mid-level managers earning a reasonable annual salary. A certain percentage of them bring home more money than their spouses. They contribute to the household checking account and retirement funds. They’re carrying their share of family responsibilities. In some circumstances more than their share…. Here is what I’ve discovered in scores of these kinds of situations: If the husbands resist and balk, the wives often sacrifice their growth and development for the sake of keeping the peace at home. No matter how miserable they are at work.
Why do women do it? It’s 2014, for God’s sake. I’ve always assumed that women have been making progress over the last fifty years. Believe me, I have some insight into the answer to that question after pursuing the issue with a lot of potential clients. Because some of these women fear their husband’s anger, they choose not to rock the boat. Some say they don’t have the energy for a debate or fight. A few have told me they feel the need to respect house hold finances, despite the fact their husbands recently purchased an expensive item of interest without discussing it first with them. Sadly, others believe they aren’t really worth the money they’d invest in a coaching engagement that has the power to change their lives. Wow! If these women represent most women in the U.S.A., then there’s a big hidden problem. I never cease to be amazed by what people tell me when I gently probe.
Let me say forthrightly that I am willing to speak with any woman’s husband about the coaching process and outcomes. I am happy to have these conversations if my input can increase their level of understanding and help couples to make a wise decision. Actually, to date I’ve had a number of them. My business goal is to educate, inspire, and reassure these men about what happens during private sessions and about the tangible and intangible results that flow from the experience. It’s not unusual for men to minimize the value of coaching, especially if they, themselves, have not engaged. I recognize that ignorance and naiveté can be blocks, and I’m eager to do my part to alter the perception.
Women who say they want to hire me, however, need to do their part too. Instead of shrinking, they must stand tall and state the case. It’s not about defending themselves in front of a man; it’s about openly but respectfully declaring what they need in order to perform better on the job or successfully jump ship. They ought to tell their husbands that the short term investment of money, time, and effort has significant long term benefits. Then they need to list those benefits clearly in a way that means something to men. I’ve found that most men grasp concepts like: improved supervisory, problem solving, and conflict resolution skills, effective stress management, and public speaking/meeting facilitation competence. They also comprehend phrases such as: land a promotion, revise a resume, prepare for interviews, and earn more money. Like it or not, to be heard sometimes women have to talk the language of men.
Over the years I’ve discovered that many men do not—or choose not—to give credence to phrases like: professional image enhancement, personal limitations management, unfiltered feedback, and accountability partnership. These words sound fuzzy to male ears. Men are going to be reluctant to put their stamp of approval on these sorts of coaching benefits, rich as they are. The bottom line is this: Men are more apt to support their wives’ coaching contracts if they can see the overall enhanced financial, time saving, and relationship quality value to it. Seriously.